For the first time, the "incorruptible" heart of a celebrated saint will visit the Philippines this October. The particular relic of St. Padre Pio
, which seldom leaves a Capuchin monastery in Italy, will be in the country for at least 20 days, from Oct. 6 to 26. Father Joselin Gonda, rector of the National Shrine of St. Padre Pio
, said the Philippines will have the distinction of having the relic longer than any other country its been exhibited in so far. The heart relic has only been to three countries — ten days in the United States; eight days in Paraguay, and five in Argentina. Father Gonda said the visit is a "time of grace" for Filipinos who will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the country in 2021. The visit is doubly significant because this year marked the centennial of Padre Pio receiving the stigmata
, one or more or the five wounds of Jesus, on Sept. 20. This year also marks 50 years since the saint's death on Sept. 23 1968. "The visit of the heart relic is a fitting epilogue to these two important events in the life of St. Padre Pio," said Father Gonda. He said Padre Pio can be a role model for Filipino priests who are observing the "Year of the Clergy and the Consecrated Persons" this year. "Padre Pio can be an inspiration and challenge to us to have a heart like his, close to the Eucharistic and forgiving heart like the Lord," said the priest. An exclusive one-day veneration of the heart relic is being reserved for priests and religious at the different venues in the cities of Manila, Cebu, and Davao. A group of Filipino devotees will fetch and accompany the relic to the Philippines. It will also be accompanied by two Capuchin friars.